Torre downplays Broxton's struggles
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton's falling velocity isn't a concern, manager Joe Torre said before Thursday night's game with the New York Mets. Broxton's fastball has appeared, based on ballpark speed meters, to be topping out in the low 90-mph range during his two second-half appearances, both of which resulted in the Dodgers' blowing ninth-inning leads.
"He feels all right," Torre said. "To me, I think the biggest part is what we all go through as players. If they don't get a couple of hits, they may start trying too hard. I think he may be squeezing the ball a little bit. In St. Louis [on Sunday], he threw a lot of fastballs that were in the same place. I thought his velocity was good there, but unfortunately, you can't throw hard enough to keep throwing it in the same place.
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"I think he may be trying to force it a little bit. I just think he needs to have a good game and get that feeling back."
As right-hander Chad Billingsley went to the mound for the ninth inning Wednesday night to finish off what became a five-hit shutout of the San Francisco Giants, it wasn't Broxton who was warming up in case Billingsley got into trouble. Instead, it was lefty Hong-Chih Kuo, who had pitched two innings Tuesday night and who, because of his history of arm problems, Torre hasn't allowed to pitch on consecutive days all season.
Torre cautioned against reading too much into that, citing the fact Broxton had thrown 44 pitches in the sweltering St. Louis heat Sunday and then 16 more Tuesday night before being forced to leave the game when acting manager Don Mattingly inadvertently made a second mound visit during the ninth inning. Torre also pointed out that Kuo had needed only 20 pitches Tuesday to get through his two shutout innings.
"For the last month and a half, [Kuo] has been saying, 'I can [go back-to-back],'" said Torre, who was watching from general manager Ned Colletti's box on Wednesday while serving his one-game, league-imposed suspension. "Last night, we were certainly in a weakened condition to sort of OK that. [Pitching coach Rick] Honeycutt came in and asked me before I left the clubhouse. I just told him to go through the training staff and see if there was anything they were concerned about. If not, go ahead and use him."
More and more pitching
Even after Billingsley's shutout gave the bullpen a much-needed night off, the Dodgers opted to stick with a 13-man pitching staff for at least more day, a situation that leaves them a man short on the bench.
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The Dodgers purchased the contract of reliever Jack Taschner from Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday, a day when they were expected to promote an outfielder to take the roster spot vacated when Manny Ramirez went onto the disabled list Tuesday.
"We certainly don't want to be at 13, but I expect we'll stay there until we sort of stabilize ourselves," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I think there is a possibility that in the next couple of days, we could go back to 12."
The Dodgers probably will purchase the contract of outfielder Jay Gibbons, who could become their primary left-handed pinch hitter.
Monasterios to start Monday
Torre said Carlos Monasterios will start Monday's game against the New York Mets, the first time the rookie right-hander will have started a game in more than a month. Torre said if Monasterios doesn't have any long innings, he reasonably could be expected to throw as many as 85 pitches. Monasterios is being replaced in the bullpen by James McDonald, who was recalled from Albuquerque on Monday and pitched that night against the Giants, giving up four runs on nine hits over five innings.
Johnson rehab delayed
Torre said outfielder Reed Johnson, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 15 because of a back strain, won't start his minor league rehabilitation assignment until at least the middle of next week because his condition has stalled.
"He has sort of stagnated," Torre said. "He was getting better, getting better, but he isn't improving now. He isn't going backward, but just isn't improving."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.